In The Memory of Us by Camille Di Maio, we are introduced to Julianne Westcott, the only child of a wealthy family. She lives a dream life of money, gowns, and dances, as well as young men wanting to escort her about town. When she uncovers a secret that has been hidden from her, she suddenly sees life in a different manner. This secret changes her life, for she has found a brother, blind and deaf, whom her parents have hidden away in an institution since his birth. Her life suddenly looses its luster and seems pale in comparison to the life of others that surround her.
Choosing to visit with her brother in secret, she meets a young man , Kyle McCarthy, an Irish Catholic gentleman working the grounds of the institution while studying to become a priest. Kyle is the only one who seems able to break through her brother’s barrier, and they have formed a friendship. The meeting is a distraction for them both, and Julianne finds herself falling in love, knowing she will have to soon make a choice. Kyle too must decide, and his choice is even more difficult.
War is on the horizon and creates a deadly shadow that changes their world as the Blitz strikes at the very foundation of England. Julianne is caught in the middle and an accident that changes her life makes her decision more intense. She chooses to leave everything behind, and devote herself to those in need while in every case hiding her identity to protect her loved ones left behind.
Yet there is often light after the darkness and she finds that there may be a way forward from the deceit and damage of her past. Can she find her way clear to becoming the woman she once was?
Di Maio gives us a tough and challenging romance, as well as a chilling rendition of how war tears apart more then the structure of cities, but lives as well. Her characters are a great mix of strength and reserve with just a bit of uncertainty and flaws, that make them very real and easy to relate to. She takes us on a journey into war-torn England and the lives of some who have been dealt some savage blows. The intensity and courage keep you enthralled and reading far into the night.
If you enjoy historical novels, romance, and tales of war you will find this to be a great book for your library. The characters and circumstances stay with you long after the book is finished, leaving you wanting more.
This would be a great work for a reading group or book club with a great deal of interest and discussion available for debate.